‘Loki’ shakes up the status quo of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Without becoming required viewing for future movies.

Marvel Studios

This post contains major spoilers for episode six of 'Loki.'

In case you didn’t hear earlier, Loki will return for season two, and thank goodness: The finale didn’t resolve a whole lot, if it resolved anything. Well, we did find out who was pulling the strings behind the Time Variance Authority and why, but it really served as an introduction to a villain who’s scheduled to make his next appearance in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

However, Loki never felt like an extended prequel to, well, anything. It’s been a show that’s stood largely on its own, one which forged a unique identity apart from everything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the Thor movies. After all, this isn’t the Loki we spent eight years watching on screen. This one was created in 2019 in the middle of Avengers: Endgame, a variant that so far is walking a path free of Asgard and all that pesky Avengers business.

Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino
Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel Studios

And so Loki the show paved its own road as well, not really relying too much on knowledge of the films past the first and last Avengers movies. You could walk into the series knowing as much about Loki’s fate as the variant Loki and walk away after the first season knowing just as little. The finale was interesting because for the first time, I have no idea how a Marvel show fits into the greater scheme of things. And like He Who Remains, I find that a bit exciting.

One thing that has been true of all the Marvel shows has that we’ve always generally known where they’re supposed to slot into the bigger universe. Agents of SHIELD was originally intended to be a way for the side stories of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to thrive but for a while it was treated as a place to dump movie leftovers. Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist were originally aimed toward setting up The Defenders limited series. WandaVision was a prequel for Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, while The Falcon and the Winter Soldier did character work for the next Captain America film.

Tara Strong as Miss Minutes and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Renslayer
Marvel Studios

But Loki, aside from wrapping up a loose thread from Endgame, doesn’t actually tie into anything, especially any upcoming projects. They don’t even name the man behind the curtain, he’s just “He Who Remains.” And he’s killed by the end of the episode, which means any time we see him from this point forward, it’s technically a different person; another cosmic iteration of the same jerk. Fans of the comics know that he’s meant to be Kang the Conqueror, but that big reveal is yet to come — because the man we met is not a conqueror. He was a cosmic bureaucrat.

The conqueror, though hinted at in the Loki finale, will make his first full appearance in early 2023. He won’t remember the events shown in the Disney+ show since he wasn’t actually there, which means either the film will completely ignore all we learned here, or explain it to the audience anew. Prior knowledge of Loki shouldn’t and most likely won’t be necessary.

Sophia Di Martino and Tom Hiddleston
Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel Studios

Which leaves season two of Loki free to do almost anything it wants. The man who seems to now be in charge of the TVA is unlikely to be even close to the same man that Scott Lang and Hope Pym will have to tangle with, since we are dealing with a multiverse of possibilities. It does throw the next Doctor Strange movie into a bit of uncertainty, since in our original non-COVID timeline that was supposed to have premiered back in May. Were we supposed to see the debut of the multiverse before we saw its origin? Or will there be some other cosmic wrench to mess things up further for the MCU? A lot of things that seemed inevitable when all these projects were originally announced have now been thrown into uncertainty.

But for now, the key takeaway from the Loki finale is that the series is not beholden to anything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It didn’t have to load up a ton of character development or make sure everything is back in place plot wise before the next film. It’s free to take its small cast of characters and fully explore their possibilities, with no worries about how it will affect the other Marvel properties. What will happen to Loki, Sylvie, Mobius, Ravonna and the rest? We can focus on their individual stories instead of fussing over what can and can’t happen.

We can no longer make predictions based on future projects in the pipeline, or contractual obligations of actors. Theories can proliferate and almost nothing is off-limits. Every step Loki and the rest take just means another multiverse to explore in shows like What If?. The Sacred Timeline is dead, and so are the shackles of movie continuity.

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